Rolling, verdant hills, breathtaking seascapes, and romantic castles woven together by a rich tapestry of history and culture should put Ireland at the top of your must-see list. Already a popular destination for college students, the "Emerald Isle" is also a great choice for high school students seeking a study abroad experience. With English as the main language and few requirements for entry, Ireland makes for an easy transition and the perfect place for a high school study abroad program.
Channel native superstar Rory McIlroy while you hit the links at the famous Royal County Down golf course, kiss the Blarney Stone at the 600 year old Blarney Castle, or cross the surf on a mighty steed in the "Land of the Horse". Looking for adventure of a different kind? Sample blood pudding or crubeens, the traditional Irish dishes made of dried blood and pigs feet, and do St. Patrick's Day the right way in iconic Temple Bar. After all, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland (even though he was from Britain!).
If you're looking for a once in a lifetime experience before college, then read on to find the right study abroad program for you.
Information is widely available for college students looking to study in Ireland. Less known, but growing in popularity, are study abroad programs for high school students. Get a taste of college life during a summer program or step in the shoes of an Irish teen by becoming an exchange student.
- Summer: Summer abroad programs in Ireland provide students with a short, but intensive, collegiate experience. Summer programs typically last 2-3 weeks and include daily lectures led by university faculty, followed by interactive workshops and chaperoned field trips. Students live on campus in dorms or apartments and have free time in the evenings and weekends. Some summer programs culminate in a final paper or online assignment. Typically, airport transfers, accommodations, and all meals are provided, while some organizations provide insurance, airfare, and excursions.
- Semester or Year: If you desire a longer, more authentic Irish experience, consider becoming an exchange student. Spend a semester or more living with a host family and immersing yourself in a true learning experience, studying the coursework – and daily lives – of Irish teens. As an exchange student, you will step into the shoes of a typical Irish high schooler, living and eating meals with the family, attending classes at a local high school (some of which are single gender), and participating in extracurricular activities. The Irish are notoriously friendly and sports-loving people, so if you're an athlete, Ireland may be the perfect place for you. More interested in literature? Explore Dublin's many connections to writers James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. Ireland truly has something for everyone.
Unlike many other countries, Ireland does not have many requirements for foreign students, nor is there a language barrier to complicate the process. Go to Citizens Information's website to learn about visa requirements. As with any international travel, students must possess a passport to go abroad. American and Canadian students are not required to obtain a visa for entry into Ireland, nor are they required to register with immigration as long as their stay is less than 90 days.
However, students must show documentation allowing their entry into the country. This includes the letter of acceptance from the university or exchange program. Your study abroad program will be able to give you specific information regarding your arrival in Ireland. Visit the Irish Council for International Students and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade websites to learn more.
Most study abroad programs require the completion of an application, a minimum GPA, and letters of recommendation and/or parental authorization. Similarly, these programs have specific age requirements, so be sure to get all the information before making any decisions.
Summer and semester programs both provide housing for students. Summer programs offer room and board on campus in private or single-gender dorm rooms and on campus apartments. Meals and transportation are also included. On campus living provides a taste of independence and self-sufficiency. Exchange programs include living with a host family, who typically provide a room, bed, laundry facilities, and all meals. This situation allows students to experience what life is like for an Irish teen. Choose the scenario that makes you the most comfortable.
Summer programs range in cost from $2500-4500, while semesters abroad are around $12,000. Typically, program fees cover room and board, meals, and academic excursions. Most often, airfare and insurance are not included, and you'll need some spending money for your free time, so keep that in mind when planning a budget. However, many programs offer their own scholarships, so be sure to contact your chosen organization for scholarship opportunities.
In addition, you can get creative and have fun raising money to fund your trip. Start a letter writing campaign to solicit donations from family and friends, waive Christmas and birthday presents in lieu of monetary contributions, or have a yard sale. Tech-savvy teens should check out websites such as Projecttravel.com, Fundmytravel.com, and Kickstarter.com to harness the fund-raising power of the internet.